“Literary newspaper written by ladies.” This is how it appeared in 1887 The violets of the Anahuac, the first publication made by women and for women that appeared at the end of the 19th century in Mexico. Although the heroine of Independence Leona Vicario is considered the first journalist in Mexico, the texts of these women who succeeded her are today more attached to what we know as journalism. This is what the researcher at the University of Hidalgo Elvira Hernández Carballido comments. “The first women who began to publish some texts in newspapers made by men did so around 1872,” says the expert.
In a society in which it was not welcomed or welcomed for women to give their opinion – less from a profession dominated by men – this newspaper written by a group of bourgeois ladies was a small revolution that never made it to the journalism books in Mexico.
Almost a century and a half later, the Morton house has auctioned one of the copies of The Violets of the Anahuac in 17,000 pesos (about 800 dollars) and has returned to the public debate the history of this group of women who in the middle of the Porfiriato dared to claim education for women as a source of progress and development in the country. “Most of the women did not go to university and we could not vote, it was a difficult context to make their way in journalism,” adds Hernández Carballido.
The auctioned piece represents a privileged window into the thinking of the women of the time, where despite the modernity of some ideas, religion and the role of taking care of the house and children predominate. “The copy is six 32-centimeter long sheets, with inserted articles and a lithograph, printed on cotton fiber paper at the Aguilar e Hijos printing house,” explains Rodrigo Agüero, cataloguer and evaluator of books and documents at Morton Subastas.
The newspaper run by Laureana Wright, the daughter of a wealthy mining entrepreneur, only lasted two years (between 1887 and 1889) but served to set the tone for other publications that followed. The tone and way in which she and the 33 collaborators who had the publication spoke about topics not allowed to women, caused many of those writers to sign with pseudonyms. Here too many times “anonymous” had a woman’s name. Among the texts, the signatures of Dolores Correa Zapata, Mateana Murguía de Aveleyra and Wright herself stand out, recognized in various intellectual circles of which Manuel Acuña, Ignacio Ramírez and Manuel Altamirano were also part.
Hernández Carballido considers The Violets of the Anahuac as the first “feminist” newspaper in Mexico. “Although it is true that we are not talking about a feminism like today, they begin to touch on issues about politics and education that question the situation of women and their rights as citizens,” she points out.
“Wright had a reputation as a writer and poet. She was a teacher for other journalists because she opened the pages of her newspaper to all the women who wanted to write not only poems, recipes or beauty tips, but to those who saw Mexican women from another context, ”Hernández continues.
Honeysuckle, María del Alba or Anemona were some of the names with which these women signed articles on science, art, poetry or manifestos about the importance of studying. “We come to the stage of the press to fill a need: to educate ourselves and spread the faith that the sciences and the arts inspire us. Contemporary women want to leave forever the limbo of ignorance and with raised wings they want to reach the regions of light and truth ”, says one of the writings published in the first issue of December 4, 1887.
Thus, little by little, the cobwebs are falling. Concepción Manresa de Pérez speaks in her column “Women of our time” about the first doctor who graduated from the School of Medicine, Matilde Montoya. Quite an achievement for the woman of the late nineteenth century. “The material woman who lived in darkness at the foot of her children’s cradle, who could not educate because she only served as a nurse, has awakened today to the life of progress inspired by modern culture,” says Manresa de Pérez.
After falling ill, Laureana Wright left the management of The Violets of the Anahuac, but he continued to publish throughout his life, until his death in 1896, when he was only 50 years old. Among his writings, one of the first manifestos on gender equality in Mexico stands out, entitled “The perfect woman”, published in 1893 in The Ladies’ Mail. His way of expressing himself won friendships and admiration, but it also raised blisters and he faced the government of Manuel González (1880 – 1884), which forbade him to speak of politics – and less from a critical point of view – due to having a foreign surname. Wright was born in Mexico.
Democracy, voting, taking care of children, the education of women and girls or the wage inequality between men and women who practiced the same profession were several of the reflections collected in The violets of the Anahuac. Some of them are astonishingly current. Mateana Murguía de Aveleyra, for example, denounced for the first time the salary gap between male and female teachers, who earned 60 pesos and 45 pesos, respectively. His article was so popular that salaries leveled off after publication. In another reflection, Murguía recognized the danger that walking in the street implied for women at night. “The teachers, almost all young, while their weakness is not sufficiently respected by the culture of our compatriots, do not dare to leave their home to return at eight or nine at night, because they well know that on the way they will meet a thousand impertinent that annoy and upset them ”.
The seed they sowed The Violets of the Anahuac It continued to flourish decades later with new generations of women who walked in the footsteps of these pioneers. In 1904 The Mexican Woman He took up the foundational ideas of Wright’s newspaper and even reissued several texts by the writer. “With the Mexican Revolution Hermila Galindo publishes The Modern Woman and Juana Gutiérrez de Mendoza founds Vesper, a 100% political and fierce publication; women begin to get into other scenarios where it seemed they could not be, ”says Hernández Carballido.
The researcher points out that a deep disappointment comes with the 1917 Constitution “they see that they do not give them the right to vote and that women are not referred to in the text, so feminist publications lose their strength and go to a more clandestine environment ”, He says. It was until the 30s of the 20th century, during the struggle for the female vote in the country, that this type of newspaper had a new resurgence. Despite this, Mexican women did not get to vote until 1953.
Dr. Hernández Carballido points to the Academy as responsible for the erasure of these women from the history of journalism. “When the history of the press is given in our country, they do not talk about them, when they did exist, they were there,” he says. “I always tell my students to look for them and read them so that they don’t get lost again (…) As Rosario Castellanos would say, a furious rebel always comes out to change things,” says Elvira Hernández.
Among them, the name of Laureana Wright will go down in history.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.